Bill Plaschke is waiting for Albert

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We know this, because that’s the refrain he uses to turn what should be a one sentence thing in a notes column — Albert Pujols has yet to hit a home run this year — into a full-blown column about a 54 at bat homerless stretch:

Waiting for Albert …

At 8:20 p.m., he steps to the plate in the fourth inning for his second at-bat, takes a strike, then lowers the bar to an entirely new level. He fouls a pitch that soars into the press box and lands at my feet. This meaning he has now hit more balls to me than over the fence.

In this Plaschke is correct: it’s all about him and his search for a column idea. Pujols doesn’t care, nor should he.  Nor should the Angels. Not yet anyway. Because as Plaschke himself notes in a column-nullifying sentence near the end, Pujols went 107 at bats without a homer last season at one point. And, in case anyone forgot, the season went just fine for Pujols and the Cardinals.

Call me in a few weeks if Pujols is still homerless. And if the Angels are still seven back of the Rangers, or more.

Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.